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Another Notable Entry In The Haines Oeuvre,
This review is from: After Murder Park (Audio CD)
I was listening again to this 1996 Auteurs album (their third of four) the other day and marvelling not only at Mr Haines creative, lyrical sense, but the sheer simple, sophistication (an oxymoron?) of the man’s songwriting (and 'arrangements’). For example, take the song Buddha – arguably one of the most ‘throwaway’ songs here (though I’m not sure Haines has really ever penned such a beast), but just listen to the sophistication of the sound arrangement here (after some simple strumming), with Haines’ buzzsaw guitar and powerchords, James Banbury’s searing electric cello and Alice Readman’s throbbing ('Hooky style’) bass. Some credit is (I guess) due to legendary producer Steve Albini for his 'recording’ here, but this is really just the 'icing on the cake’ of Haines’ dynamic and melodic sense. And then, over the top (as it were) we have another set of Haines’ darkly poetic (that’s the pervading basis of the album’s themes) lyrics – a tale of another desperately ironic character ('choked on whale bone in a Cantonese restaurant’) presented in that uniquely Hainesian vernacular.
Throughout the album, Haines delves into the increasingly dark side of Britishness (or maybe that should be Englishness), overlaying his tales of war-time shenanigans, urban alienation or (perhaps more modernistic) sexual dysfunction, domestic abuse and infanticide with a kind of mystical, mediaeval folksiness ('.. and the child brides went down to the water ‘) – though the man’s caustic cynicism and sharp irony is never too far below the surface (much of the 'media sensationalistic’ subject matter here being particularly topical).
Song-wise, there’s not really a weak moment, whether it be Haines’ scorching guitar sound on the 'rocking’ opener Light Aircraft On Fire, New Brat In Town, Everything You Say Will Destroy You, (the lament for rock n’ roll, or more specifically Britpop in) Tombstone, or (best of all) the sublime two and a half minutes of pop (acoustic/electric) dynamism (uniquely Auteurs-like) that is Land Lovers. Quite frankly, the band has never sounded better and Mr Albini should also receive some plaudits for the muted understatement on Child Brides, the magnificent Fear of Flying and the closing title song. Top trio for me, though, would be the ironically light (and slight?) Unsolved Child Murder, the mesmerising melody and guitar (à la New French Girlfriend) of Married To A Lazy Lover and the epic Dead Sea Navigators, which actually reads as quite a 'straight story’ (celebratory even) with a few caustic moments ('..our friends, though they were few..’) together with an intoxicating, soaring chorus.